Category Archives: Labor Unions

OECD Employment Outlook 2018

Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, July 4, 2018

The 2018 edition of the OECD Employment Outlook reviews labour market trends and prospects in OECD countries. Chapter 1 presents recent labour market developments. Wage growth remains sluggish due to low inflation expectations, weak productivity growth and adverse trends in low-pay jobs. Chapter 2 looks at the decline of the labour share and shows that this is partially related to the emergence of “superstar” firms, which invest massively in capital-intensive technologies. Chapter 3 investigates the role of collective bargaining institutions for labour market performance. Systems that co-ordinate wages across sectors are associated with better employment outcomes, but firm-level adjustments of sector-level agreements are sometimes required to avoid adverse effects on productivity. Chapter 4 examines the role of policy to facilitate the transition towards new jobs of workers who were dismissed for economic reasons, underlying the need of early interventions in the unemployment spell. Chapter 5 analyses jobseekers’ access to unemployment benefits and shows that most jobseekers do not receive unemployment benefits and coverage has often been falling since the Great Recession. Chapter 6 investigates the reason why the gender gap in labour income increases over the working life, stressing the role of the lower professional mobility of women around childbirth.

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Press release

WEBINARS

Collective bargaining
Collective bargaining systems are at a crossroads in many OECD countries. In this webinar, we will assess the role that collective bargaining systems play for employment, wages, working conditions, wage inequality and productivity (chapter 3 of the publication). We will also discuss what policy-makers, unions and employers’ organisations can do to adapt their national bargaining systems to the challenges of a changing world of work.

The decline in wage growth
10 years after the beginning of the crisis, there are finally more people with a job than before. Yet, wage growth remains considerably below pre-crisis trends. In this webinar, we will address factors behind the persistent wage growth slowdown (chapter 1 of the publication). While low inflation and productivity growth explain much of these patterns, the dynamics of low-pay jobs and the wages associated to them also play a significant, but understudied, role.

KEY COUNTRY FINDINGS
United States

The Case For More Labor Unions Is The Most Obvious Case You Can Possibly Imagine
Source: Hamilton Nolan, splinter, July 5, 2018

….The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s new annual Employment Outlook report is a particularly useful tool for gauging how the United States measures up to the rest of the developed world in terms of economic policies and outcomes. In this context, we have a lot of work to do: “The low-income rate in the U.S. [defined as the share of the working-age population living with less than 50% of median household disposable income] is one of the highest in the OECD,” the report says. “The rate in the U.S. is 14.8% compared to an OECD average of 10.6%. The lowest rate is found in the Czech Republic at just 5.8%.”….

Is it great to be a worker in the U.S.? Not compared with the rest of the developed world.
Source: Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, Wonkblog, July 4, 2018

The U.S. labor market is hot. Unemployment is at 3.8 percent, a level it’s hit only once since the 1960s, and many industries report deep labor shortages. Old theories of what’s wrong with the labor market — such as a lack of people with necessary skills — are dying fast. Earnings are beginning to pick up, and the Federal Reserve envisions a steady regimen of rate hikes.

So why does a large subset of workers continue to feel left behind? We can find some clues in a new 296-page report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a club of advanced and advancing nations that has long been a top source for international economic data and research. Most of the figures are from 2016 or before, but they reflect underlying features of the economies analyzed that continue today.

In particular, the report shows the United States’s unemployed and at-risk workers are getting very little support from the government, and their employed peers are set back by a particularly weak collective-bargaining system…..

Supreme Court Bans Mandatory Union Fees for Public-Sector Workers

Source: Lisa Nagele-Piazza, SHRM, June 27, 2018

In a closely watched case, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned 40 years of precedent by ruling that mandatory public-sector union dues are unconstitutional.

In a 5-4 vote on June 27, the justices held that states and public-sector unions may no longer require workers to pay agency fees. “Neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay,” Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote for the majority.

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the decision will have large-scale consequences. “Public employee unions will lose a secure source of financial support. State and local governments that thought fair-share provisions furthered their interests will need to find new ways of managing their workforces,” she wrote…..

Related:
Decline in Union Membership Expected After High Court Ruling
Source: Lisa Nagele-Piazza, SHRM, June 28, 2018
Supreme Court held that mandatory public-sector union fees are unconstitutional

Right-Wing, Business-Funded Groups Are Preparing to Use the Janus Decision to Bleed Unions, Internal Documents Show

Source: Lee Fang, Nick Surgey, The Intercept, June 30, 2018

Just moments after the Janus vs. AFSCME ruling came down, several conservative think tanks launched campaigns to leverage the pivotal Supreme Court decision as a means of starving unions of funds and eventually disbanding them altogether. The effort is aimed at encouraging public-sector workers in 22 states to withhold minimum bargaining fees from their labor unions, a shift made possible by the Janus decision. As labor comes under attack, the advocacy groups will launch decertification campaigns to nullify certain unions in certain jurisdictions.

Withholding the funds and dismantling the unions could have profound effects on American politics — a feature, not a bug, of the conservative activism following Janus. Many public-sector unions and the activists who work with them are affiliated with the Democratic Party, and the organizing they carry out is dependent on the hundreds of millions of dollars they expect to collect in union fees in the coming years…..

Supreme Court Rules Against Public-Sector Unions

Source: Colleen Flaherty, Inside HigherEd, June 28, 2018

High court says public employees don’t have to pay regular agency fees to unions that represent them in collective bargaining and more, which could hurt faculty and staff unions.

Related:
Janus, Faced
Source: Matt Reed, Inside HigherEd, Confessions of a Community College Dean blog, June 27, 2018

The ruling on unions.
A friend in grad school once commented that she and I followed the Supreme Court the same way that normal people follow baseball. So yes, I’ve been mulling over the Janus v AFSCME case for months. Longer, in fact, if you count the version that didn’t get decided when Scalia died.

I’ve been working in unionized public higher education since 2003. At all three community colleges, and in both states, representation fees were part of the order of the day. I’ve known faculty who swear that the union is the only thing standing between them and penury, and I’ve known faculty who wanted absolutely nothing to do with their union. Having also worked in a decidedly non-union setting — DeVry — I’ve seen the differences. But here I’ll focus instead on possible long-term fallout. Assuming the ruling stands for a while, what’s likely to happen?

The obvious immediate impact will be that the folks who only pay representation fees because they’re compelled to, will stop. Anecdotally, I’d guess that this is a small, but non-zero, number. That will represent lost income for the union, and a short-term boost in take-home pay for those employees.
What happens next is less obvious.

Teachers’ activism will survive the Janus Supreme Court ruling
Source: Sherman Dorn, The Conversation, June 27, 2018

….As a scholar of the history of post-World War II education policy, I see this decision as an important landmark in the history of teachers unions. The Supreme Court ruling is a serious legal and financial blow, but it will not kill public employee unions, teachers unions – or the ability of teachers to work together to amplify their voices for social change….

Trump’s Supreme Court Strikes Blow to Government Workers, Good Paying Jobs
Source: Mary Bottari, Center for Media and Democracy, June 27, 2018

In a major blow to organized labor and good paying government jobs, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that government workers who choose not to join a union cannot be charged fees to reimburse the union for the cost of representing them in collective bargaining.

The decision was 5-4 in the Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31 case, with Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch supplying the deciding vote. Justice Samuel Alito, who actively invited a challenge to union fees, wrote the decision for the Court’s right-wing majority.

In today’s decision, Alito wrote that the fees, called “agency fees,” violated the First Amendment. In doing so, Alito overruled a 41-year-old Supreme Court decision legalizing these fees in the Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education decision.

The decision ushers in “right to work” style conditions for public employees in states across the nation. These anti-union measures originated in the Jim Crow South as a means of undermining unions who were organizing black and white workers together in the same shop. Predictably, Koch brothers groups–such as Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the State Policy Network–cheered the ruling, while union leaders prepared to renegotiate thousands of contracts and deal with a new legal landscape for unions across the land.

Janus decision extends First Amendment ‘right of silence’
Source: Robert A. Sedler, The Conversation, June 27, 2018

The Supreme Court’s Janus ruling extends strong protection to the First Amendment ‘right of silence’ and continues their trend of expanding First Amendment rights, often at the behest of conservatives.

Nevada’s unions show how organized labor can flourish even after an adverse Supreme Court ruling

Source: Ruben J. Garcia, The Conversation, June 28, 2018

American labor unions have long been bracing for a “post-Janus” future in which collecting dues would be harder than ever.

The Janus case has been moving through the courts for two years and addresses the question of whether a public employee can be forced to pay dues to a union that represents him or her.

On June 27, the Supreme Court said no, which means the much-feared poorer future is now upon organized labor. While some pundits argue that this may “cripple” certain unions across the country, my research in Nevada suggests it doesn’t have to be that way.

Nevada unions have been operating under this very constraint for 65 years and yet have managed to thrive. As such, I believe they offer three important lessons for labor unions in other states as they grapple with an indisputably bleak legal environment…..

Janus v. Democracy

Source: Joseph A. McCartin, Dissent, June 27, 2018

The Janus decision is a significant setback for democracy. What should public-sector workers do now? …. By squelching democracy both at the polls and in the workplace, the Court has sown a bitter wind. Recent uprisings by teachers in states like Oklahoma and West Virginia, which already banned union fees, suggest that it might one day reap a whirlwind…..

6 excerpts that explain the Supreme Court’s big anti-union ruling

Source: Dylan Matthews, Vox, June 27, 2018

Janus v. AFSCME is a very, very big deal. ….

…. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued what is probably its single most consequential ruling of the year. Janus v. AFSCME is a devastating blow against public sector unions, barring them from charging “agency fees” to the public employees for whom they negotiate pay increases and benefit bumps if those employees decline to join the union as full members.

Now, teachers unions, police unions, and more will be forced to lobby public employees to pay full union dues, even though those employees will get the same benefits from the union if they pay nothing at all.

You can read our full explainer on the case here, but it’s worth diving into the actual language of Justice Samuel Alito’s 5-4 majority opinion and Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent in more detail to understand exactly why the Court decided to make the whole United States adopt a “right-to-work” policy when it comes to public employees.

1) The Court has overruled a decision it made in 1977 ….
2) The Court’s conservatives view making public employees pay agency fees as an unacceptable First Amendment violation ….
3) Alito doubts that this decision will hurt public-sector unions as much as they fear ….
4) Alito is deeply worried about the political economy effects of public unions ….
5) Public employee union membership has to be opt-in now, not opt-out ….
6) Kagan argues this ruling throws stare decisis out the window ….

Court Rules Against Unions in Janus

Source: Jeff Hirsch, Workplace Prof blog, June 27, 2018

The Supreme Court has just released its decision in Janus v. AFSCME. I’m not typically the best predictor of what the Court will do, but even I had this one called from the moment Justice Gorsuch was confirmed. The Court, in a 5-4 decision by Justice Alito, overruled its own Abood decision to hold that public-sector union fees are unconstitutional. I won’t repeat how we got to this point (although you can start at my earlier post on the Janus oral argument, which has links on the aborted Friedrichs case, as well as our coverage of 2014’s Harris v. Quinn, in which Alito made clear where he wanted to go on this issue), but the upshot is that public-sector unions nationwide must now operate on an opt-in basis for all union contributions—even contributions that go to core collective-representation services. In other words, the free rider issue that exists for the private sector in right-to-work states now exists for all public-sector workplaces.

The basis for the decision is that dissenting employees’ have a 1st Amendment right not to pay any funds to the union representing them—even for collective bargaining and other work that goes to the benefit of all unit employees. This follows the dicta in Harris, but is a clear departure from the Court’s public-sector employment jurisprudence, which does not look favorably on individual employees’ 1st Amendment claims. In particular, if this case didn’t involve unions, you would expect the Court to hold that concerns about dues paid to a third party are not matters of public concern. This result, to my mind, is the culmination of several related factors: in addition to the strong pro-business bent of this Court, we’ve seen public-sector unions becoming more powerful than their private-sector counterparts, while also becoming strongly aligned with one political party. This has occurred during a period of time in which political antagonism is on the rise and we’ve more jurists appear willing to join that battle. As a result, unions as a whole, but public-sector ones in particular, have been targeted both politically and legally. And they just took a massive loss at the Court today.

Janus, of course, is not the end (although some unions may feel like it right now). Here are some questions I have after the decision—please add more (or responses) in the comments: …..

The Face Behind the Case: Janus v. AFSCME, Dark Money, and the Future of Labor

Source: Mansoor Khan, Los Angeles Review of Books blog, June 3, 2018

…. For those of us in the labor movement, the claims made in Janus are not novel. They are the same ones the right has deployed for years as part of a well-orchestrated campaign to destroy the political clout of unions. All you have to do is follow the money and you will see that the National Right to Work Committee, which is bankrolling the Janus case, has deep connections to a network of right-wing organizations funded by the Koch Brothers and other aspiring corporate oligarchs. This network of right-wing non-profit organizations, which include the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council and State Policy Network, has been dedicated to legally and legislatively stymieing the political work of labor unions for years. ….